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Have you ever seen one of those big Thanksgiving Day parade balloons? Whether it's Spongebob Squarepants or Bullwinkle, a small army of people on the ground need to hold those ropes tightly. If they don't, the balloon might just sail off into the sky.

What Happens in Diabetes?

Diabetes can be a little like that. You have to work to keep it under control. Luckily, you have helpers. You, your parents, and your diabetes health care team can work together so your blood sugar levels stay as close to normal as possible.

Sometimes this can seem like a lot of work, but it will pay off. How?

  • You'll feel better.
  • You'll grow up just the way you should.
  • You'll be less likely to have health problems from your diabetes when you get older.

Over time, having too much sugar in the bloodstream can damage the vessels that supply blood to the body's organs, like the heart and kidneys. This can cause serious health problems.

Also, having low blood sugar levels can make you feel bad, too, and make it harder for you to do all the things you want to do.

The good news is that keeping blood sugar levels under control can help keep you healthy and prevent health problems down the road. That's why everyone might seem concerned about keeping your diabetes under control. They want you to feel good, be healthy, and stay healthy.

What Causes Blood Sugar Levels to Be Out of Control?

Managing diabetes is like a three-way balancing act between the medications you take (insulin or pills), the food that you eat, and the amount of exercise you do. All of these need to be balanced. A problem with any one can send blood sugar levels up too high or down too low.

In general, out-of-control blood glucose levels can be caused by:

  • not taking diabetes medicines when you're supposed to
  • not following the meal plan (like eating too much or not enough food without adjusting diabetes medicines)
  • not getting regular exercise or not making changes to your diabetes treatment plan when you exercise more or less than usual
  • being sick or having too much stress
  • not checking blood sugar levels often enough

Checking your blood sugar levels regularly and taking good notes when your glucose levels are too high or too low will help give you and your diabetes team the information needed to make adjustments to your diabetes management plan. You and your mom or dad can work together on making sure that this information is collected and passed along to your doctor.

How Do I Know if My Diabetes Is Under Control?

Your doctor or diabetes health care team will tell you what your blood sugar levels should be. They may call this a target range. If you've ever played darts or shot an arrow from a bow, you know that a target is what you're aiming to hit. If you have diabetes, you're trying to keep your blood sugar level as close to the target range as possible.

The only way to know if your blood sugar level is close to your target range is to check your blood sugar level several times a day with a glucose meter. Your diabetes health care team will help you figure out when and how often you should be checking. Depending on how old you are — and how long you've been dealing with diabetes — you might need help doing this.

Checking your blood sugar level tells you how much glucose is in your blood right this minute. But doctors can use another test to check how under control your blood sugar has been over the last 2 or 3 months. The HbA1C test can be done in your doctor's office or in a lab. In general, the lower your HbA1C level, the better you're doing controlling your blood sugar level.

How Can I Get (and Keep) My Blood Sugar Levels Under Control?

Keeping blood sugars close to normal can be hard sometimes, and nobody's blood sugar control is perfect. Sometimes blood sugar levels can get too high or low even when you do all the right things to help keep them in control.

But you can do some things to help keep your blood sugar levels in a healthy range:

  • Take your insulin or pills when you're supposed to.
  • Follow your meal plan as much as possible.
  • Get regular exercise.
  • Check your blood sugar level several times a day.
  • Visit your doctor regularly.
  • Learn as much as possible about diabetes.

Take these steps and you'll be doing your very best to keep your diabetes under control. It's kind of like you're marching with one of those huge parade balloons — and holding on tight!

Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: October 2013

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Related Resources:
American Diabetes Association (ADA)
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